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When In Doubt Look at an Agency’s Self-Promotion

Picking a creative agency is tough. I get that. TIV Branding is built on the fact that we meet deadlines and exceed expectations. A lot of agencies don’t roll that way, but the place it shows itself most clearly for potential clients is not where you might think. It’s not the pace at which they work, the deadlines they miss, or the general stereotypical artist-type attitude…although we can thank a lot of agencies and their embodiment of those stereotypes for making us look really good for the last 20+ years. 

The hardest thing to surmise is whether an agency can do the level of work in their portfolio for you.


I won’t go into process. I’ve gone into it many times (here’s our process overview)…although I do think process is the first answer to how you can make sure an agency is capable of replicating great work. Assuming the agency has a solid process in place, let’s move on.

Their Self-promotion

Yes, you should look at client work. Absolutely. You’ll likely see some patterns that will help you understand the strengths of the agency and the approach they’ll likely take with your project. If they don’t have fantastic work in their portfolio, then move on. Remember, they’re showing their BEST work on their website and in their proposal deck, so there’s a good chance it won’t get better than that.

The factor that’s toughest to figure out from client work though, is how much is the agency and how much is the client. And this can go both ways…tough clients can effectively ruin great concepts, but great clients can make just okay work outstanding. And chances are, the agency isn’t even aware when this happens. (Although, they’ll definitely let you know when they think a client ruined a project!)

That’s why I’ve always weighted self-promotion above all. I’m talking about the design and user experience of the agency’s website. Their logo. Their business cards (if they have them). And most importantly their campaigns. Because that’s an example of their creativity unfettered by the client.

TIV Branding’s Self-promotion

I’m particularly proud of TIV Branding’s self-promotion. We treat our own marketing initiatives the same as marketing our clients. We meet weekly. We push ourselves to improve. We set a strategy…and stick to it, even if we get bored because we see it day in and day out. And we push the boundaries. We do all of these things for our clients, but the difference is we are more likely to go with the “out there” concepts for ourselves. Hey, our audience is marketing professionals, so we figure they’ll appreciate this approach, right? Here’s our latest campaign: https://www.tivbranding.com/families/

So have a look at your perspective agency’s portfolio of client work. But don’t stop there. Dig deeper into their own marketing and I think you’ll find valuable insight into how creative they can be if you give them the space to push boundaries. Oh, and then let them push boundaries…you don’t want to be THAT client, right?!

Brandt Hoekenga is the Founder and Creative Director for TIV Branding


TIV Branding is a boutique branding firm in Sonoma County, California. We specialize in building brands by using traditional, social and digital channels in unison. If you would like to discuss a project or find out more about how we do what we do, please email us at info@TIVbranding.com.